Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

Please- no shots fired today.

In light of the celebration of Martin Luther King day, wouldn't it be great if we had a day with no violence? And in particular, no gun violence? We spent a lot of time in my church yesterday talking about how to act for justice in Dr. King's example. Martin Luther King wrote and preached about a lot of justice issues- economic disparity, civil rights, racism, and, of course, non-violence. This article contains a quote from one of King's daughters urging that today be a day of non-violence. From the article:
"People worldwide should honor the memory of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. by making Monday a "no shots fired" day and ringing church bells in support of non-violence, urged the daughter of the slain U.S. civil rights leader.
Church services and tributes will be held across the United States to commemorate King's 85th birthday on Monday, a federal holiday. At the same time, there is a push for a new monument and possibly a major movie production from director Oliver Stone.
"Dr. King's philosophy of non-violence is more relevant, I believe, than it was 10 years ago," King's daughter, Bernice, told Reuters.
In a time of school shootings and increasingly violent movies, television shows and video games, his message of non-violence should continue to resonate, said his daughter, chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Center which promotes his philosophy of non-violence.
"America has an enormous appetite for violence. I don't know why we have such an affinity for that, but I do know it has to stop," she said."
"No shots fired." In what other modern developed country not at war does someone have to implore that there should be no shots fired for just one day? We already know that about 80 people a day die in America from gunshot injuries including homicides, suicides, and "accidental" shootings. This is not a non-violent society. It is not a non-violent world but many countries go for weeks or months with no gun deaths. But in America, as King's daughter said, we have a "time of school shootings and increasingly violent movies, television shows and video games..." Indeed we do. And our "appetite" for gun violence is unique amongst democratized nations not at war. And she knows that it has to stop. How will we stop it? We can if we have the will. In America, someone has to ask that no shots be fired for just one day.

Sigh.

Martin Luther King Jr. could not have envisioned a country rife with the daily gun violence that continues unabated. He himself, of course, died from a gunshot injury. He was shot and killed in 1968. So was Robert Kennedy, months later. Since 1968, more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than Americans who have died in all wars since the country's beginning. From the linked article:
To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it's worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.
That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, "secondary smoke" obsessions that characterise so much of American life. (...) 
Everywhere you look in America, people are trying to make life safer. On roads, for example, there has been a huge effort in the past 50 years to enforce speed limits, crack down on drink/drug driving and build safety features into highways, as well as vehicles. The result is a steadily improving record; by 2015, forecasters predict that for first time road deaths will be fewer than those caused by firearms (32,036 to 32,929).
Plainly, there's no equivalent effort in the area of privately owned firearms. Indeed, most politicians do everything they can to make the country less safe. Recently, a Democrat senator from Arkansas named Mark Pryor ran a TV ad against the gun-control campaign funded by NY mayor Michael Bloomberg – one of the few politicians to stand up to the NRA lobby – explaining why he was against enhanced background checks on gun owners yet was committed to "finding real solutions to violence".
What are real solutions to violence if not to work to prevent at least some of the daily carnage caused by gun violence? So this is the America we have now. 45 years after the shooting deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, what have we done to prevent at least some of the daily carnage?

Guns just make death all too easy. Of violent deaths in America, firearms injuries are the leading cause. In some states, death by bullets is about to surpass auto accidents as the leading cause of non medical deaths. The corporate gun lobby and its' fear and paranoia campaign has led to the idea that everyone should have guns around at the ready in case of some imagined threat to their freedoms or yes, to their lives. Occasionally it happens that a gun is used in justifiable self defense. But it's rare compared to the number of actual gun deaths caused by even law abiding gun owners in just seconds of rage, anger, fear, depression, while dangerously mentally ill or drunk or irresponsible access to guns by little children or teens. It's amazing really that nothing is done in the face of all of this. Thus, I write about the shootings and lobby for sensible gun laws, and encourage safe storage of guns, asking if there are guns where children play, point out that lots of gun deaths are because people don't think through the risks associated with having loaded guns around and just plain get angry about all of this.

The sermon at my church yesterday noted that it was OK to get angry about something that has affected you or a loved one because often that anger can lead to action for justice. So yes, sometimes I'm angry. When a loved one is taken so suddenly and violently, people are angry over the lost potential of that person, the lost times to spend with that person, the lost love, the lost hugs, the loss of family time, the loss of not getting to know that person into old age and the void left behind.

And so I will continue to write about things that make me angry. Like the incidents from my last blog post. Like the incidents below.

Should a kid who plays "ding dong ditch" be shot for playing a prank? Would that rise to the occasion of shooting in self defense of the home? Why would someone think to shoot an unarmed teen-aged prankster?  Could this happen? In Pennsylvania, a man shot at kids who were ringing his bell. He hit one of them in the leg. From the article:
Herman — who keeps a loaded gun in his house — said it was hard to believe someone would shoot down another person for ringing a doorbell.
“I don’t think I would shoot anyone for knocking on my door or ringing my doorbell,” he said. “If they tried to break into my house, that’s a different story.”
That is just one of many similar comments. A gun was not needed in this situation. But a gun was at the ready and so it was used. That's the American gun culture at its' worst. The shooter was lucky that no one was more seriously harmed. And a gun in the home, ostensibly for self defense, can be used in a senseless shooting such as this one. In some states this shooting could rise to a claim of self defense. But Pennsylvania's "Stand Your Ground" law is fortunately different from Florida's.

The problem with guns is that many people who own them believe they have to be at the ready to take care of all of those burglars, teen-aged door bell ringers and felons who are surely coming to do harm. The problem with guns is that when they are not locked up safely away from those who shouldn't have them, bad things can happen. The problem with guns is that they are often the item(s) stolen from homes during burglaries. It turns out that most home "invasions" or burglaries happen when home owners are not at home. That being the case, having guns around, often loaded ones at that, for fear of a home invasion, doesn't work very often to stop the burglaries. Instead, as the linked story here about 40 guns stolen from a Seattle home, guns are stolen and end up in the illegal gun market for felons and others who shouldn't have them.

Stolen guns is one of the risks of having them around in the home, especially when not locked up safely. There is a definite risk to having guns around the house in general. Some gun owners don't seem to recognize this notion. When I first started writing this blog, I would come across incidents of "accidental" gun discharges and thought they were stupid and dangerous and rare. I have changed my mind. Incidents like this one of a man taking off his pants, where his gun was stored in the pocket of those pants, and being shot in the chin, are more frequently found in news reports. As my readers know I link often to the Ohh Shoot blog where the writer is keeping track of "accidental" gun discharges, almost all of which are by "law abiding" gun owners. Even though these are the folks who are supposed to know about the guns they purchase and own, do they? This is the case I was making in a recent post about requiring training for everyone who buys a gun. It just makes common sense.

In my last post, I wrote about otherwise "law abiding" gun owners shooting and killing people they know and love or even strangers in some cases. But here is yet another domestic shooting, this time in Texas, ending in the mother of two small children dead and her estranged husband also dead by suicide. I wrote about 3 of these in my last post. And now just one more of the many that happen almost on a daily basis. A gun is a danger to its' owner and people who know and love that owner. There is a definite risk to owning a gun. Do people who buy and own the guns recognize this risk? Do they think anything like this could happen to them or by them? I wonder.

This shooting of a Michigan child by a 4 year old cousin who found a rifle under a bed was in the Minnesota news. These are the stories that should make us work together to strengthen our laws and work to prevent senseless shootings however we can. I am hoping that will happen. I believe it is possible if we have the will and are willing to have a national conversation about keeping our communities free from the gun violence that is so devastating to our families.

So today, let us honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dealing with differences in a non violent way produces better results. Violent deaths and injuries should not be the result of differences of opinion or anger towards another person. It's time to make us all safe from the gun violence that devastates families and communities all over America. Dr. King's family understands this all too well. Let's get to work to make the changes we want and deserve.


4 comments:

  1. Interesting as a responsible gun owner that carries most of the time, I do get angry about the events that you write about. The other gun owners that I know also get angry about the events that you write about. In fact, we may be more angry than you are in that any new laws will affect the responsible gun owner directly. However, I do think that you would be well served to consider the goal to educate gun owners as to legal and safe ways to handle guns rather than to just "restrict" guns. Also, I think that we need much better law enforcement against criminal actions, like rape, robbery, murder ...
    How about a future article on ways to help the gun owners to become more qualified and more safe. Maybe you could use some of the material from Mas Ayoob as a starting point.

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    1. This is not my area of expertise but it's an interesting idea. Who knows?

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  2. One of my readers wanted me to talk about the fact that Martin Luther King was a concealed carry permit holder. Here is what he said about that: " I was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house. When I decided that I couldn't keep a gun, I came face to face with the question of death and I dealt with it." You can read this article for more on MLK and guns. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/20/martin-luther-king-guns-pacifism. This article is also informative on the subject http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-winkler/mlk-and-his-guns_b_810132.html
    King applied for a permit to carry but was apparently not granted a permit. Funny thing. A Black clergy man whose life was threatened on a daily basis and whose ideas were viciously opposed by many couldn't get a permit to carry.

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  3. Japete, TTC, et al,

    As a gun guy myself, I do agree with TTC's perception that this blog tends to hammer gun people by writing about the various unfortunate shooting events from around the country. That said, they do happen and we can't deny it.

    But it's also true that guns are used by law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and/or others. Unfortunately, that phenomenon is hard to measure and as a result gets short shrift in the media.

    Generally speaking, one side in the gun debate points only to the bad guns do while the other points only to the good they do. To fix our nation's problems, we as a people need to rise above this polarized thinking and realize that both sides get some things right and both sides get some things wrong. Both sides have something meaningful to contribute.

    As with so many other issues, the truth is in the middle.

    Most people favoring strong gun rights are not extremist survivalists and most persons favoring gun laws are not gun confiscators. Such folks only exist at the fringes, are few in number, and have little political clout.

    TTC, your suggestion regarding this blog doing something of an overview of safe gun handling and storage, referring to Massad Ayoob's work, is a good one. Also, the Second Amendment Foundation has a set of fine videos covering the same topic from which vaulable nuggets can be drawn.

    Personally, I favor federal, (near) universal background checks and mandated safe gun storage, as well as stiff penalties for straw purchasers and gun traffickers. (And I would include the Ayoob & 2nd Am material in the writing of such a safe storage law). These measures can be accomplished without materially hindering law abiding folks from acquiring and keeping firearms, or using them for lawful home defense.

    If tightly written, well funded and well enforced, these laws would reduce gun violence. Our gun laws today are too weak due to jurisdictional limitations and built-in loop holes - they are far from tightly written, well funded or well enforced.

    Brent Gurtek

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